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Force Field Diagram: How to do it

The Quality Toolbook > Force Field Diagram > How to do it

When to use it | How to understand it | Example | How to do it | Practical variations


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How to do it

  1. Write a statement that describes the decision or situation to be resolved. This should be a brief sentence that will make it easy to distinguish between:
  2. (a) Driving forces which will act to support the statement.

    (b) Restraining forces which will act against the driving forces.

    (c) Other forces, which will not affect the situation one way or another.

    Where the description is of a possible action to achieve a known objective, include both of these in the statement. For example, 'Reduce customer complaints by personally delivering and setting up all replacements'.

  3. Form a team of people who, between them, will be able to identify the forces around the problem.
  4. Write the statement from step 1 at the top of the work area, with a vertical line below, as in the illustration. Indicate which side will contain driving forces that will support the statement, and which side will contain restraining forces. As left to right is commonly viewed as 'forwards', it is a good idea to put forces 'for' the statement on the left so that these 'drive the problem forwards'.


    Fig. 1. Laying out the work area


  6. Identify driving and restraining forces that will act for and against the statement, writing them on the appropriate side of the central line (do not add arrows yet).

Questions to ask to help identify the forces involved may include:

  • What must we do to make it work? What could happen to make it fail?
  • Who would help? Who would oppose it? Who would ignore it?
  • What would happen if the decision was not made or reversed?
  • What is the best and worst possible thing that could happen?
  • What will happen whatever is decided?
  • What are the costs and benefits?
  • What are the financial implications?
  • How easy or difficult will it be to implement?
  • What other forces would support or oppose identified forces?
  1. Identify how to decide on the strength of each force. This includes selection of the criteria and the method of scoring.
  2. Criteria help to contrast the significance of each force against other forces, both on the same side and on the other side of the line. Use the objective from step 1 to help select the criteria, which might thus be 'Effect on customer satisfaction'.

    Possible scoring methods include consensus discussion, Voting, Prioritization Matrix or some other form or objective measurement. The appropriate method will depend on the severity of the problem and the available time.

  3. Use the method defined in step 5 to determine the relative strength of each force that was identified in step 4. Draw an arrow of appropriate length under the force to show its strength, pointing into the line, as in the illustration.


  5. Identify the overall force on each side. This may be clear from the diagram, or may require more discussion and summation of the forces.


  7. Take appropriate action. Typical actions include:
    • Seeking to validate assumptions made about forces and their relative strengths, especially if the results are uncertain.
    • Implementing the identified action, especially where forces for the statement are overwhelming.
    • Seeking and evaluating other possible solutions, particularly where the diagram is inconclusive or where forces against are overwhelming.


Fig. 2. Adding forces, for and against



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